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Indulgent and inexpensive wines to accompany festive foods

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I got thinking the other day about my ideal holiday feast.

Turns out I have more than one!

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the traditional turkey or duck or goose, and other times, our family has celebrated this annual get-together with prime rib, with lobster or crab, or with what I think we’re having this year, my mom’s AMAZING onion-baked baby back pork ribs.

And since I love them all, I don’t really have a favourite. But while I can’t cover all the possibilities that other families might have made traditions in their lives, I thought I’d offer some wine matches for the above variations that might be helpful not only in planning feast pairings, but that also might make good gift ideas for the wine fans you may have on your shopping list. And as an added bonus — at least I hope you think so — I’ve offered a pricey and not-so-pricey option for many of these.

First and foremost, regardless of what was for dinner, I’d start with a sparkling wine. (More on these in next week’s column, as New Year’s Eve reigns as the bubbly consumption night of the year.) While Champagne is lovely and I adore it, many other bubblies come at a fraction of the price, are wonderful and make terrific gifts. My favourites over the years haven’t changed too much — I love the Mumm Napa Brut Prestige. It’s lush and fruity and spicy, and is just a sophisticated, refined, beautiful sparkler for $22.49.

The Jaume Serra Cristalino Cava Brut from Spain is quite light but very pleasant, and not quite as lemony as some Cavas, which makes it really easy to take, especially for me and especially at $12.95 a bottle. The Cristalino Brut has a smoothness, a creaminess about it that appeals to me a lot — I like sparklers that have some of the qualities of true Champagne, and this is one of them.

If I were having fowl or seafood, the bubbly would go really well with either of those, too, given that it’s a good palate cleanser for the grease in gravy or with the butter one might have with lobster or crab.

But if not bubbly, I’d opt for one of the loveliest wines I’ve had in a long, long time — the 2010 Seresin Chardonnay. With a tinge of citrus, tangerine, peach, and pear, this wine from New Zealand’s famed Marlborough region is a traditional chard, with exactly the right amount of subdued oak. It’s well balanced and boasts a really long finish and — bottom line — I absolutely love it. At $25.93, it’s a great idea for Christmas dinner or a fabulous gift for a picky chardonnay fan.

A less expensive alternative is my go-to for a bargain chard — the Lindeman’s Bin 65 from Australia. With a fair bit more oak than the Seresin, this is still a great buy for just $12.49 a bottle.

If you’re going for beef as the entree, and here I’m thinking prime rib particularly, the Zucchardi Q Tempranillo would be an amazing option. A gutsy concoction boasting vanilla, a flicker of toasted coconut, as well as tobacco and leather, this soft but strongly backboned wine was a surprise to me. For $21.99, it’s simply a lovely, intense, fabulously flavourful wine, and especially good with beef.

Cabernet sauvignon is also a favourite pairing with beef, and a reasonable alternative is the 2009 G. Marquis Red Line VQA from Niagara ($13.98). It’s medium-bodied and would be a perfect fit for the holidays, with red and black currant, cranberry, cedar, and spice all rolled into one very serviceable beverage.

With pork, my favourite these days is the lovely Ghost Pines Merlot from California ($19.99). This is what I’ll be taking to my mother’s gorgeous new condo to accompany her splendid baby back ribs on Christmas Day. Well structured with beautifully balanced black and red cherry aromas and flavours, along with a toastiness that pays homage to its storage in oak, this is a great wine to sip on its own AND to savour with food. I’d forgotten how much I liked this wine until I shared a bottle of it with a friend recently, and my love affair with the Ghost Pines merlot has been reignited.

Since for our group, one bottle is never enough, I’ll also be taking along the bargain favourite, the Open Merlot VQA. From the Okanagan, this merlot is more than respectable for the price ($12.49) and is fairly light-bodied with flavours of red currant, chocolate and leather. While it doesn’t linger a long time on the palate, there’s still plenty of bang for not a lot of bucks.

Not being a dessert person, nor into coffee either, I usually move straight to liqueurs or the like after dinner is over. So here are three I really like, all considerably different.

It may make me a bad Canadian, but although I like liqueurs a lot, and they’re definitely sweet, I really don’t care for icewine, although it, too, is sweet. But I’ve found a remarkable compromise that pairs the sweetness of vidal icewine with the boldness of a seven-year-old oak-aged brandy. The Kittling Ridge Icewine & Brandy from Niagara is delicate and smooth with tropical fruit notes soothed by the warmth of the brandy. It’s $18.99 for a 375 ml bottle and is really a treat worthy of the season.

Although I don’t usually drink coffee, that doesn’t mean I don’t like coffee-flavoured beverages. And along with the standards like Kahlua (which I DO like but with which I have some issues — more on that in an upcoming column), I’m not crazy about REALLY sweet beverages except for my precious Benedictine, which regular readers will have been subjected to ad nauseam in this space.

That’s where the Patron XO Café comes in. It’s fine Patron Silver tequila blended with ‘coffee essences,’ and while it offers a really rich coffee flavour, it’s not as wildly sweet like so many other après dinner beverages, nor is it as viscous as regular liqueurs. I like it chilled, so I drink it straight, but it can be enjoyed on the rocks or mixed with cream or used in other cocktails. It’s delish, anyway, and is $39.99.

Lastly, the wonderful Patron Citronge Extra Fine Orange Liqueur Premium Reserve. With a crisp but smooth orange flavour, the Patron Citronge is, in my opinion, more delicate and elegant than other orange liqueurs. It was apparently designed to make the perfect margarita, but it’s also said to be divine in other cocktails like flavoured martinis (I also have a problem with flavoured martinis, which I’ll deal with in the promised upcoming column, which feels like it’s turning into a rant) and Cosmos. I like the Citronge, which sells for a more-than-reasonable $25.99 just on its own. But if I were making orange sauce for duck or goose, I’d DEFINITELY use a splash of it in there, too.

Regardless of what you indulge in, I hope your holidays are happy, and filled with love, laughter and good cheer.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 21, 2013

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I got thinking the other day about my ideal holiday feast.

Turns out I have more than one!

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I got thinking the other day about my ideal holiday feast.

Turns out I have more than one!

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